Warriors’ Campaign Ends in Derby Delight

Kyle Ross

Kyle Ross gets himself onto the scoresheet in Whitley Warriors’ derby win. Photo by IceHockeyMedia.

Whitley Warriors concluded their regular season with a 5-3 home victory on Sunday evening against local rivals Billingham Stars after a 4-2 road defeat to league champions Solway Sharks on Saturday.

Led by Captain Dean Holland, the Warriors travelled to the Dumfries Ice Bowl with a strong line-up of seventeen skaters and starting netminder Josh Crane, with forward Adam Finlinson also available for this clash after missing out on last weekend’s win against Nottingham Lions. Meanwhile, the Sharks had a short bench of fourteen skaters, their line-up including Captain Struan Tonnar, top points scorer Peter Gápa and shot stopper Calum Hepburn, whilst Alternate Captain Ross Murray and forward Callum Boyd were amongst those missing.

As play got underway in the first period, both teams battled to challenge their opposition’s defences, each side seeking an early foothold in the game but without the success that they hoped for. With no change to the score line, Whitley were pleased to be granted a power play when forward Andrew Craik was sidelined for high sticks on 12:12 but it was Sharks’ forward Rick Bentham who had the best chance to open the scoring when defenceman Adam Wood gave up possession. Remaining composed to recover from this, the Warrior cleared the puck into the netting to prevent Solway from capitalising. Moments later, netminder Crane made a save to halt Scott Henderson’s effort on goal, the forward working with Ruairi Lockerbie in an attempt to put his side ahead. In the final minute of the period, forward Shaun Kippin tried his luck in front of the net but the score line remained unchanged to see both teams head in without anything to show for their efforts, Whitley only narrowly outshooting the Sharks by 8 shots to 6 in the opening twenty minutes.

Just forty one seconds into the middle stanza, Bentham opened Solway’s account with an unassisted shot snapped past Josh Crane. Disappointed to have fallen behind, Whitley sought to retaliate on a breakaway seconds after play resumed, versatile Warrior Steven Chalmers putting Hepburn to the test. Shortly after, Latvian defenceman Rihards Grigors’ hooking penalty placed Whitley on a penalty kill on 23:17 but the Warriors only increased their attacking play whilst operating with four men, Wood breaking away to challenge Hepburn. Unable to make the most of their power play in consequence, Solway were left to rue this missed opportunity when Alternate Captain Jordan Barnes bundled the puck past Hepburn on 27:54 after a skilled setup from forward Adam Finlinson and Captain Dean Holland. Subsequently, Josh Crane kept out Tonnar’s shot as the Shark attempted to recover his team’s lead but Solway were soon shorthanded as a tripping penalty for Bentham handed the Warriors a power play on 31:32. Despite this, Whitley could not grab a second goal with the additional skater and instead Solway gained a 2-1 lead seventy seconds after returning to full strength, Gápa the man on target after some neat build up play from forward Scott Crane and utility player Bentham on 34:42. It was not long after that a knee injury for Kieran Hair seemingly distracted the home team as the Warriors immediately beat Hepburn following the forward’s exit, Chalmers equalising after receiving the puck from forward Callum Watson on 36:49 to see both sides head in on level terms once again.

Returning to the ice, Whitley found themselves under some early pressure as Gápa executed a swift shot which was dealt with by Josh Crane. The Warriors replied with further attacking play, Barnes searching for his second goal whilst Chalmers received the puck in the high slot only to find his attempt extinguished by Bentham. Whitley remained resolute as play returned to their defensive zone and the visitors eventually broke out through Wood whose deflected shot did not have the desired effect at the other end of the ice. Building on this, Finlinson swerved Bentham but couldn’t get his shot away and just as it seemed that the Warriors were enjoying some sustained pressure, Henderson restored his team’s lead on 45:41, forward Crane with his second assist of the evening after receiving the puck from Gápa to make it 3-2. Following a faceoff in the Sharks’ defensive zone, Watson attempted a wraparound which was followed by a chance for blue liner Dylan Hehir who fired at Hepburn’s mask. The Sharks then worked hard to kill Henderson’s interference penalty on 56:19 and, realising their need to push the game into overtime when their opposition returned to full strength, Whitley sought to hold onto their additional skater by pulling netminder Crane. Though a necessary move, this tactic did not pay off for the Warriors as Gápa received the puck from Henderson to achieve an empty net goal with just fifty eight seconds remaining to seal his team’s 4-2 victory.


Shots on goal
Sharks:      18
Warriors:   32

Peter Gápa (2+1), Rick Bentham (1+1), Scott Henderson (1+1), Scott Crane (0+2)

Jordan Barnes (1+0), Steven Chalmers (1+0), Adam Finlinson (0+1), Dean Holland (0+1), Callum Watson (0+1)

Penalty minutes
Sharks:        6
Warriors:    2

Man of the Match
Sharks:     Kieran Hair
Warriors:  Kyle Ross

After returning from Dumfries, the Warriors played host to local rivals Billingham Stars on Sunday evening, lining up with seventeen skaters and shot stopper Dean Bowater, the side missing defenceman Craig Johnson, forwards Callum Queenan and Niall Ryder, and Czech import Matěj Valíček once again. Meanwhile, Billingham made the trip with sixteen players, their absentee list including Captain Michael Elder, winger Joseph Colton and forward Jack Emerson.

The first period began at a high tempo, defenceman Dylan Hehir amongst those striving for an early goal as he looked to open the scoring from the high slot, and it was not long after that Whitley went ahead, forward Callum Watson tapping in forward Shaun Kippin’s rebound which had fallen behind netminder Thomas Brown to make it 1-0 on 1:01. Unperturbed, the Stars levelled the scoring forty three seconds later when winger Shaun Galloway beat Bowater coolly with a backhand shot after being picked out by sixteen-year-old forward Finley Bradon. Dismayed to have conceded so quickly, the Warriors fought for the puck in their offensive zone, resulting in a crosschecking penalty for Kippin on 3:12. Though shorthanded, Whitley remained strong and built sufficient momentum to regain their lead, forward Jamie Ord flicking the puck into the net after pouncing on Harley’s intercepted shot on 7:42. Seeking a third goal, the Warriors persisted in their attacking play, forward Adam Finlinson working the puck through the Stars’ defence time and again without any reward whilst versatile defencemen Steven Chalmers and Adam Wood saw their shots saved. A high sticks penalty for Latvian Patriks Grigors on 12:34 presented Whitley with a power play which the Warriors capitalised on, Wood powerfully firing into the roof of Brown’s net, assisted by defencemen Harry Harley and Rihards Grigors on 14:05. With a 3-1 lead, the Warriors pursued a fourth goal and Alternate Captain Jordan Barnes came close to scoring in the latter stages of the first period whilst a breakaway for Bradon almost resulted in the Stars reducing their deficit as the youngster played the puck to forward James Moss whose shot was fired high. With twenty nine seconds remaining in the period, utility player Kyle Ross and forward Lewis Hall clashed along the boards, the pair earning themselves two minutes for roughing in the process to see both teams reduced to four skaters ahead of the first interval.

As Ross and Hall served the remainder of their penalties at the start of the second period, the Stars resumed play with more fervour than before, resulting in a frantic return to the ice for Whitley’s defence who channelled all of their efforts into clearing their zone. A tripping penalty for ‘D’ man Joseph Dowdle on 24:50 awarded the Warriors another power play but, try as they might, the home team could not add to the scoreboard. As play progressed beyond the midpoint of the contest, the Warriors became incensed when Billingham went unpunished after impeding Chalmers as he bore down on Brown’s net and were further frustrated when Rihards Grigors was subsequently penalised for hooking to hand their rivals a power play on 31:54. Successfully killing this penalty, the Warriors then saw another chance extinguished by the Stars when on the breakaway, causing tempers to simmer. Captain Dean Holland showed determination as he wound his way around Brown’s net before firing from close range and Chalmers’ quick-fire shots continued to be kept out by the netminder, the Warriors simply unable to convert their chances. Sensing their way back into the game as a result, the Stars achieved a second goal when their top points scorer Chris Sykes received the puck from Moss in the neutral zone to confidently hit the target on 38:24, making it 3-2. Realising their need to increase their goal count, the Warriors retaliated with just twelve seconds remaining in the second period; Ross swept his rebounded shot into the net glove side after forcing a pad save from Brown whilst on the breakaway to restore his team’s two-goal cushion ahead of the third period.

The score line 4-2 going into the final twenty minutes of the game, Billingham headed out onto the ice with the view to trouble their rivals further and succeeded as Moss struck with full force to beat Bowater on 41:38, Galloway and Bradon assisting to take their team within a goal of Whitley. Looking to recover from this, the Warriors attempted to work the puck around the Stars’ defensive zone but Billingham proved problematic opposition, breaking up Whitley’s attacking play whilst Brown continued to pull off save after save to keep the Stars within touching distance of their hosts. Ord had a strong chance to collect his second of the game but his looping shot was high of its mark and forward Anthony Wetherell jostled his way through Billingham’s defence without managing to find the target. A hooking penalty for forward Lewis Crisp on 51:12 handed Whitley a power play and again the side could not extend their lead, Kippin coming closest with a backhand shot. With Billingham a real threat as the period progressed, the Warriors remained eager to make their lead a less tentative one and Barnes angled for a tap-in close to shot stopper Brown, causing Patriks Grigors to confront the alternate captain. With the tension palpable in the final minutes, Chalmers played a backhanded pass behind him to Kippin who instantly unleashed a shot from close range to make it 5-3 on 57:51. Shortly after this goal, Barnes and Grigors exchanged words once more but their conversation was interrupted by a timeout called by the visitors who opted to pull Brown from his net in place of the additional skater with fifty three seconds remaining. Play soon switched back to Billingham’s defensive zone however to see Brown restored to his net and, though the Warriors sought a sixth goal with Wetherell and youngster Matthew Betham amongst those looking to make an impact as the clock counted down, the final buzzer called time on Whitley’s 5-3 derby win.


Shots on goal
Warriors:  68
Stars:        19

Shaun Kippin (1+1), Callum Watson (1+0), Adam Wood (1+0), Kyle Ross (1+0), Jamie Ord (1+0), Harry Harley (0+2), Steven Chalmers (0+1), Rihards Grigors (0+1)

James Moss (1+1), Shaun Galloway (1+1), Chris Sykes (1+0), Finley Bradon (0+2)

Penalty minutes
Warriors:  6
Stars:         8

Man of the Match
Warriors:  Dylan Hehir
Stars:         Thomas Brown